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U.S. Expects Russian Pushback over Viktor Bout

The Obama administration is bracing for Russia's reaction to the extradition to the U.S. of accused Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, but officials say their efforts to rebuild relations with Moscow can weather the storm.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday that Bout's extradition from Thailand over Russia's objections would likely create "ripples" in Moscow's relations with the U.S., but added that any concerns about the Bout case can be managed.

"This will create ripples but not waves," Crowley said. "We have a mature relationship with Russia guided by overlapping national interests that are unchanged by this case. There are areas where we agree to disagree and we manage those issues. We will work through any concerns in this instance as well."

Russia says Bout is a businessman who has not committed any crime and that he should be returned to Russia. Bout's extradition comes ahead of weekend talks between NATO and the Russia about Moscow's role in Afghanistan, a proposed missile defense plan for Europe and other critical issues.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in remarks broadcast on Russian television that the Thai government's decision resulted from "an unprecedented political pressure on the court and the government of Thailand" brought by the U.S.

"That is an example of glaring injustice," Lavrov said on a trip to Kenya.

Lavrov's deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, said that Moscow was seeking an immediate consular access to Bout.

Bout, a former Soviet air force officer who is reputed to have been one of the world's most prolific arms dealers, was arrested at a Bangkok luxury hotel in March 2008 as part of a sting operation led by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

Bout has allegedly supplied weapons that fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa, with clients including Liberia's Charles Taylor and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and both sides in Angola's civil war. He has been referred to as "The Merchant of Death," and was an inspiration for the arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film "Lord of War."

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